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Why Gravel?

At the tender age of 15, I ran my first and last marathon. Mostly on a dare, but also because I was a runner at the time, I lined up for the 19845735202074_a8fd38eb73_b Macy’s Marathon in Kansas City and at the conclusion of the race (which took longer than I care to admit) I swore to never run again. “I need a sport where I can coast every once in a while” was my thought at the time and so I took up cycling and never looked back. To this day, the only time I run is if I’m being chased.
Over the intervening 30+ years, I’ve tried pretty much all the cycling disciplines (well…maybe not track). Everything from road to mountain, cyclocross to fixed gear, and even a fleeting flirtation with BMX…but nothing has struck me like gravel (figuratively speaking).
Why? For several reasons I think.
First and foremost, there is no better way to explore than from the seat of a bicycle. The pace is usually quick enough to cover some ground and see lots of things, but not so quick that you’re apt to miss something. If you want to experience a region, town, or backcountry fully, then do it while you’re pedaling.
HughesSecondly, gravel roads are in themselves somewhat of a paradox. They’ve been deemed by the local authorities as not important enough to pave (maybe because they don’t “go anywhere”) and yet they lead almost everywhere. They are, without a doubt, the twistiest and turniest and uppy-est and downy-est roads around. They bring you to tiny hamlets and at the same time pop you out into civilization so suddenly that you ask yourself “how did I get here?” They are the squiggliest lines on the map, and their remoteness at times requires you to be adventurous as well as fit.
Lastly, gravel is never the same ride twice. Your favorite stretch of gravel takes on new shades when the county maintenance folks dump fresh gravel. Or after a rain storm, or when the wind is howling (either for or against you). And it always demands your attention because the surface is sometimes secure and sometimes not.
Simply put…gravel provides enough stimulation to check all the mental and physical boxes that keep cycling fresh for me. Exploration, effort, endurance, and an ever-changing surface keep me engaged and entertained.
Oh, and every so often you get to coast for a little bit.
-Dan Hughes
[Dan will be on hand at BWR Survival Camp to share his wealth of gravel knowledge.]

1 Comment

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